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October is indeed Estate Planning Awareness Month. It is the month that we underscore the importance and the impact of completing an estate plan. Our firm spends each day of each week in the month extolling the value of making a plan that will propel the next and the next generation to greater financial strength and economic empowerment.

Yet, I will not lose this opportunity to reiterate the import. I am always excited when we build relationships across generations that are committed to not take for granted the goals and objectives to build. It is a blessing to be a part of the reckoning and stabilization of heir property that has meant a great deal to ancestors.

As Black people, we must acknowledge the institutional racism that has and continues to oppress our economic reality to perpetuate the racial wealth gap. We must continue to attack the systems of racism that exist, be they covert or over and fight for equity.

In addition, we must be thoughtful about the opportunities and strategies that we can implement to build our net worth while transferring that gain from generation to generation. As an estate planning attorney individuals and families share the intimate details of their financial strategies.

Statistics show that only 30% of Black families have an estate plan. The other 70% are dependent upon the state, commonwealth or the district to determine who gets what we leave behind while paying them to make those decisions.

Estate planning provides the opportunity to consider the options and opportunities to invest in your life and your loved ones financially. The opportunity to create an estate plan is the opportunity to build a vision for our loved ones that is supportive of your values and the care and consideration of the people that you leave behind.

As an attorney that manages the administration of many estates that have not been planned, it has been distressing that many families end up expending great resources and devolve into litigation that destroys many families. The financial loss is significant, but it does not compare to the emotion loss when a family because as is torn apart a result of the distribution of assets.

Estate planning is an opportunity to give a lasting gift to those who you have loved during your lifetime or those who serve in a class that you would like to bless. Oseola McCarty is a personal shero who lived her life serving. She did not make a great deal of money as a laundress but was thoughtful about leaving a legacy beyond herself. She did not have any biological children, but she had a commitment to leave a legacy to a community of children. With the guidance of an estate planning attorney and a financial adviser she was able to leave a significant inheritance ($150,000) to the University of Southern Mississippi for “colored children who couldn’t afford college.” (She also was a blessing to her family and her church.) Her legacy is based upon her willingness to think beyond her life and to create a legacy for those she didn’t even know.

We have an opportunity to change lives if we plan. Do not let another October pass by without making the commitment to build a legacy for the future. Do not allow a governmental formula to determine who will be the recipient of your precious possessions. Be assured that you can make a better decision for the people you love. Invest in your loved ones with your vision for the greater legacy. We will be glad to stand with you on this journey.

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